Frequently asked questions about ICLEI



Who is ICLEI?

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is the leading global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future.

What does ICLEI do?

ICLEI provides technical consulting, training and information services to build capacity, share knowledge and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Our basic premise is that locally designed and driven initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national and global sustainability objectives.

As a network, we promote local action for global sustainability and support cities in becoming sustainable, low-carbon, resilient, ecomobile, biodiverse, resource-efficient and productive, healthy and happy, with a green economy and smart infrastructure.

Who are ICLEI’s members?

ICLEI Members are cities, towns and regions of all sizes in more than 86 countries across the world.

What does “ICLEI” mean?

ICLEI originally stood for the “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,” but in 2003 the organization dropped the full phrase and became “ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability” to reflect a broader focus on sustainability, not just environmental initiatives.

When was ICLEI founded?

ICLEI was founded by local governments. In 1990, the organization was established when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future in New York.

How is the organization structured?

ICLEI is an international organization with 17 offices working in over 86 countries. The ICLEI World Secretariat is located in Bonn, Germany. The World Secretariat ensures that the organization can benefit from cooperation and partnerships globally and makes the voice of local governments heard in the international arena. The 17 offices ensure that local governments are served in their region according to their needs. ICLEI programs and projects vary considerably by region, based on the expressed needs of local governments.

Is ICLEI a United Nations organization?
No. ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is not a UN organization or body. We are a non-profit membership organization.

ICLEI Membership

Why do local governments join ICLEI?

ICLEI’s diverse local government members share a broad desire to make their communities better places to live by making them greener, more efficient, healthier places and by taking action against climate change—because its impacts will be felt most tangibly at the local level. ICLEI’s mission is to support these efforts. By accessing our resources, planning processes, and technical guidance, local governments can achieve results faster and overcome financial constraints. What do local governments receive as ICLEI members? The option to participate in sustainability projects and campaigns that support their local goals and needs such as:

  • Access to software and technical tools
  • Technical assistance from ICLEI’s expert staff
  • Trainings and events
  • Peer networks to share and learn from other local governments#
  • Guidebooks, case studies and templates
  • Recognition and leadership opportunities
  • Funding updates and policy analyses
  • Opportunities to affect national and international policy

What do local governments accomplish with support from ICLEI?

With support from ICLEI, ICLEI Members save money, reduce energy use and waste, increase access to fresh water or decrease wastage of clean water, and lower greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change, among many other accomplishments.

  • Measure energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, climate resiliency and sustainability performance
  • Set achievable goals and develop sustainability plans and local climate action plans
  • Create more sustainable, economically prosperous, and healthy communities that are fit for the future and can serve the next generation just as they serve the current one

What are the requirements of ICLEI Membership?

The only requirements are the payment of modest annual dues based on population size in accordance with the country GNI per capita. ICLEI also encourages its members to make a self-defined commitment to its citizens to address climate change and sustainability.

How to join?
Download the Membership Application Form

ICLEI and its international role

Key points

  • All ICLEI programs are voluntary and often designed in collaboration with local governments.
  • ICLEI does not seek to impose or mandate upon local governments any policies or initiatives, such as United Nations Agenda 21—nor does ICLEI have any authority to do so.
  • ICLEI is an independent non-profit, and not part of the United Nations.


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